The Himmler Projectis based on a speech Heinrich Himmler gave in Posen on October 4, 1943 at a secret meeting with 92 SS Gruppenfuhrer(generals)?the so-called First Posen Speech. The themes were manifold: the state of the SS order; the war on all fronts, it’s development; the Final Solution, its necessity; the future of Europe, how the wealth and labor of the subcontinent should be divided, managed and distributed; the SS’s place and function in this new Europe; etc. The Himmler Project is Karmakar’s first experiment in re-concretisation of a historical discourse by way of a video-reading; the second was Hamburg Lectures in 2006. In both works, the text is read - performed would be exacter - by Karmakar’s acteur fetish Manfred Zapatka in front of a neutral backdrop? and that’s it: no illustrating images, nothing; at the beginning and the end, title cards give some background on the speech, the audience (if known), the orator’s biography, etc.; also, subtitles sometimes suggest the original listeners’ reactions. Each video is shot from two or three angles with only slight variations in framing. The historical settings are suggested through a few props? a lectern in The Himmler Project, a chair and two small tables in Hamburg Lectures. “based on a speech”might sound weird apropos a historical text but is simply the most precise way to put it. Because: Karmakar re-constructed, based on an original disc recording, the speech Himmler actually gave? that is, with all the grammatical blunders, sentences going nowhere, etc. that tend to happen whenever one delivers a speech based only on a set of notes; meaning: Zapatka performes not the speech’s grammatically corrected transcript everybody can find on the internet but what Himmler actually said. In the FRG, the First Posen Speech is known more for the few minutes it devotes to the Final Solution than to the hours on end devoted to the reshaping of Europe? one of the Nazis’ main aims, something the country, 60 years later, is engaged in again, certainly with different means but to - in parts - very similar ends. The Himmler Project was a most timely reminder....
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